So what do you get...

Monday 4th April, 2005
for the man who has everything he wants?

That was my brother's dilema for my birthday. In fact, both my brothers...

My eldest brother bought me a rather stylish Kenneth Cole watch. Quite a nice design with the main face and four little dials underneath for day/date/months/24hr. I can't find a pic of it online yet to show.

My other brother bought me the most surprising gift though...a mini iPod!!!

I've never been a big Apple fan, an Apple II being the first beast I got exposure too. Going to a school that seemed to like Apple Macs, I soon realised that they seemed to be for artists/designers of which I am neither...I have problems drawing a stick man. So after years of hating Apples, hating 1-button mice and hating getting my floppy/cd stuch in the drive if a Mac I end up getting an iPod of all things. So not needing a portable music player, and knowing that if I did i would probably buy one from Creative, I end up with an Apple.

I'll be honest, it quite excited me. This is what gifts are all about, hopefully somebody buys you something you wouldn't think of buying yourself. So there it the box...for a whole week because I couldn't even charge it, let alone upload music to it, without a PC and my charity stunt totally got in the way. So, one week without computers and nearly £1500 for charity later (thanks to all the sponsors) I finally get a look at the mini iPod.

It's silver, sleek, small and holds 4GB of data and can also be used as a portable hard drive device...result. I installed the iPod/iTunes software and shoved it into my USB port. Thankfully my PC is modern enough to already have USB2.0 which appears to be a requirement. It also supports FireWire, which I also have, but doesn't come with a cable. Is there much benefit of using FireWire??? No idea...

It formatted my iPod for first time use and iTunes opened. Next thing, with seemingly no prompting at all, it uploaded ALL of the MP3's from my PC straight to the iPod. It also set about converting all of my .wma files into the required format for uploading. Once all of the available mp3's were uploaded I pulled the plug for a listen. Sound quality is good and the control system very simple. A little too simple and not geeky enough for me really, but pretty good. The included in-earphones, although not a patch on the high quality over-ear headphones I have, are pretty good in fidelity too, but a bit thin on bass. Volume output is very good though, many portables are too quiet these days.

iTunes...genius software. Very easy to use and manage your music collection. It will rip and eject a music cd quickly with no intervention if configured suitably. My only criticism on the ripping phase is that I can't rip from 2 cd drives concurrently, would be handy for some mass ripping sessions. The "active" playlists of the iTunes software are very clever. You can create playlist that contain all of the songs in one genre, e.g. rock, or maybe all the songs from the 80's. Each time you connect up your iPod, any new tunes are automatically copied acrossed and playlists dynamically updated.

In fact it's all very good, I like it a lot. Only a couple of criticisms really. Firstly, the USB2.0 cable is proprietary and I'm unable to use a standard USB cable. This means you have to carry the standard apple cable everywhere in order to use it as a portable hard-drive. Not so convenient. Additionally, compared to my old MP3 player, I miss the in-line remote on the headphone cable. Seeing the track that's on without having to take it out of your pocket is nice and adjusting the volume easily is almost essential and it's a pain to have to use the main iPod device to control this. As I do, a plain old volume control knob would be nice instead of that funny touchpad thing that will only control volume on one of many possible screens.

So the iPod mini is good, with a few niggles, but for free it's very good. I just need to work out when I'm going to use it now as I don't really need one.

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